Humpback whale, hog-tied by fishing line, freed in year’s first successful rescue

A rescue crew from SeaWorld worked two hours to free a juvenile humpback whale tangled in fishing line.

A rescue crew from SeaWorld worked two hours to free a juvenile humpback whale tangled in fishing line.

A one-year-old humpback whale was found struggling off the coast of La Jolla, California, Sunday with a fishing line cinched around its tail and running through its mouth, pinning down its left pectoral flipper.

The 25-foot juvenile whale, migrating from Baja, Mexico, to Alaska, was hog-tied and in desperate need of immediate assistance as time was critical in order to save its life, according to The Orange County Register and ABC News.

A team from SeaWorld, led by Keith Yip, underwent a two-hour rescue effort to free the young humpback whale in what was the first successful whale rescue of the year after a record-setting year for whale entanglements.

ABC News posted video from the rescue:

Yip and his crew found the whale “literally anchored” in 300 feet of water with only a small percentage of its body at the surface, the Register said. A large poly ball was attached near the whale's head.

The rescue crew began cutting away the fishing line from the head and mouth and worked toward the tail. They removed 40-feet of fishing line and the poly ball.

From the Register:

Once freed, the whale barely moved. Then, suddenly, it took off. Yip and his team put their inflatable craft in high gear to check on it. The whale appeared to be generally in good body condition and quickly began swimming northward in the direction of the normal migration pattern for humpback whales this time of year…

In December, NOAA reported a record 63 whales spotted off the California coast entangled in crab and lobster fishing gear. a record 35 humpback whales were reported entangled. From 2000 to 2012, an average of eight whales per year were found entangled off the California coast.

The National Marine Fisheries, an arm of NOAA that monitors whale entanglements, told the Register that two other whales tangled in fishing gear off Southern California last month could not be rescued as reports came in too late for rescue teams to respond.

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